• Publications

Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration of Ex-Combatants in Africa

Edited by Ibrahim Bangura, July 2023

This book critically examines the approaches to Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) of ex-combatants programming in Africa.

Drawing on empirical evidence from across the continent, the book investigates the different theories, contextual realities and approaches that have informed the establishment and implementation of such programmes, the opportunities they have provided for stability, peace and security, and the challenges with which they have contended. The book combines broader theoretical analysis with country-specific case studies, including Nigeria, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Somalia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Overall, the book asks how DDR programming has evolved in Africa, what factors have contributed to the success or failure of DDR processes, and what we can expect for DDR in Africa in the future.

This book will be a useful guide for students and researchers across the fields of Peace and Conflict Studies, Security Studies, History, Political Science, Sociology, and African Studies.

Publication available here

Recording of the book launch event available here

Baseline Programme Foncier

Baseline study and political economy analyses for Programme Foncier on land conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Publication available here

Youth-Led Social Movements and Peacebuilding in Africa

Ibrahim Bangura, May 2022

This book critically examines and analyses the active role played by youth-led social movements in pushing for change and promoting peacebuilding in Africa, and their long-term impacts on society. Africa’s history is characterised by youth movements. The continent’s youth populations played pivotal roles in the campaign against colonialism and, ever since independence, Africa’s youth have been at the center of social mobilisation. Most recently, social media has contributed significantly to a further rise in youth-led social movements. However, the impact of youth voices is often marginalised by patriarchal and gerontocratic approaches to governance, denying them the place, voice, and recognition that they deserve. Drawing on empirical evidence from across the continent, this book analyses the drivers and long-term impacts of youth-led social movements on politics in African societies, especially in the area of peacebuilding. The book draws attention to the innovative ways in which young people continue to seek to re-engineer social space and challenge contexts that deny them their voice, place, recognition and identity. This book will be of interest to researchers across the fields of social movement studies, youth studies, peace and conflict studies, history, political sciences, social justice, and African studies.

Book available here

Mapping of Veteran Reintegration: Challenges and Opportunities in Ukraine

Mariana Malachivska-Danchak, Irma Specht, 2020The veteran reintegration mapping focused on identifying the key factors supporting or hindering the community-based reintegration of veterans in order to develop recommendations for both national and local actors on how to address the various issues related to veterans (social, economic, health aspects, access to services, access to justice, etc.) and is intended for use by international organizations operating in Ukraine that develop and implement initiatives related to community-based veteran reintegration and the development of policies related to veterans in Ukraine and is aimed at providing better awareness and planning of potential programs.

Publication available here

Mapping report of five localities to inform the programming of community-based reintegration, community violence reduction and prevention of recruitment into armed groups in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo

Irma Specht, et al., November 2018

The results of this mapping are intended to inform future Community-Based Reintegration (CBR) and Community Violence Reduction (CVR) programming. The mapping seeks to identify the main factors in five selected localities that either could, or currently do, facilitate or hinder the reintegration of male and female ex-combatants (XCs), Children Associated with Armed Groups (CAAG) and Women Associated with Armed Groups (WAAG). The mapping further identifies potential entry points to successful reintegration programming; profiles of active armed group members, youth at risk of recruitment and reinstalled people; and points to ways to prevent future (re)recruitment. In total, 1,340 respondents (M:999; F:341) from Biiri, Kibabi, and Matanda in the Masisi Territory, and the two Goma neighbourhoods of Ndosho and Bujovu have been covered in this mapping. The results are not representative for North Kivu, the East of or DRC as a whole, as the mapping intends to provide the knowledge base for concrete programming in the five selected localities, and provide the tools to repeat this mapping in other localities. Some identified trends and recommendations are however likely to also apply to other contexts in DRC.

Publication available here

Rapport de cartographie de cinq localités pour informer la programmation de la réintégration à base communautaire, la réduction de la violence communautaire et la prévention du recrutement dans les groupes armés au Nord Kivu, République Démocratique du Congo

Irma Specht, et al., November 2018

Les résultats de cette cartographie ont pour but d’informer les futurs programmes de Réintégration à Base Communautaire (RBC) et de Réduction de la Violence Communautaire (RVC). La cartographie cherche à identifier les facteurs principaux dans les cinq localités sélectionnées qui pourraient ou qui sont en train de faciliter ou d’entraver la réintégration des ex-combattants (XCs) hommes et femmes, des Enfants Associé.e.s aux Groupes Armés (EAGA) et des Femmes Associées aux Groupes Armés (FAGA). La cartographie identifie en outre des points d’entrée potentiels pour une programmation de réintégration réussie ; dresse le profil de membres actifs des groupes armés, des jeunes à risque de recrutement, des personnes réinstallées ; et identifie des moyens de prévenir de futurs (re)recrutements. Au total, 1 340 répondant.e.s (H:999 F:341) de Biiri, Kibabi, et Matanda, dans le territoire de Masisi et des deux quartiers de Goma, Ndosho et Bujovu, ont pris part à cette cartographie. Les résultats ne sont pas représentatifs du Nord-Kivu, de l’Est de la RDC ou de la RDC dans son ensemble, la cartographie ayant pour objectif de fournir une base de connaissances nécessaire à une programmation concrète dans les cinq localités sélectionnées et de fournir les outils pour reproduire cette cartographie dans d’autres localités. Certaines tendances et recommandations identifiées sont toutefois susceptibles de s’appliquer également à d’autres contextes en RDC.

PDF disponible ici

The Gradual Emergence of Second Generation Security Sector Reform in Sierra Leone

Ibrahim Bangura, January 2017

This paper is the product of a multi-year CSG research project, titled Exploring the transition from first to second generation SSR in conflict-affected societies. Led by CSG Executive Director Mark Sedra, the project assesses and evaluates the impact of orthodox security sector reform (SSR) programming in conflict-affected countries. Employing a common methodology, the project features original research on four case study countries: Bosnia-Herzegovina, El Salvador, Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste. The case study countries chosen each feature two broad characteristics: they are recovering from conflict and making transitions from war to peace; and they are mature cases of SSR, in that they have been subjected to at least ten years of externally supported SSR programming of some form. It is also important to note that geographical diversity played an important role in case study selection, with four distinct regions represented— Balkans, Central America, West Africa, and Asia-Pacific.

Read the full article here

Book Review: The Limits of Democracy and the Postcolonial Nation State: Mali’s Democratic Experiment Falters, while Jihad and Terrorism Grow in the Sahara

Ibrahim Bangura, May 2017

For several decades, Mali has been trapped in a difficult past and a more contentious present, characterized by conflicts in the north of the country, military coups, corruption, and bad governance. While the tensions have not necessarily led to the complete collapse of the Malian state, they have undermined and fragmented it, consequently exposing it to negative internal and external influences including jihadists, terrorists, drug traffickers from South America, and corporations seeking oil and uranium beneath the Sahara Desert. Consequently, Mali has been a hub for terrorist and jihadist groups, such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Coupled with this, the crisis in Mali’s Northern region—labeled one of Africa’s “forgotten conflicts”—had by 2012 transitioned into a protracted conflict with the potential to destabilize not just Mali, but the entire Sahel and Maghreb regions. The situation was apparently escalated by a military coup d’état in March 2012, carried out by junior officers of the Malian Army led by Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo.

While there exists rich and extensive literature on Mali’s ancient history, very limited writing exists on the country’s recent history. This book by Robin Poulton and Raffaella Greco Tonegutti (2016) breaks that barrier, as it presents a comprehensive account of Mali’s recent history and provides well-informed perspectives and arguments that significantly deepen the reader’s understanding of the Malian context.

Read the full review here

Peace Nexus Foundation/ UN Inter-Agency Network for Youth Development’s Sub Working Group on Youth Participation in Peacebuilding

With contribution from Irma Specht, November 2016

The development of this Practice Note was a collaborative effort led by the IANYD Working Group on Youth and Peacebuilding, which includes 40 partner organizations primarily from civil society and the United Nations. This Practice Note summarizes the situation of youth in conflict-affected environments, argues the importance of investing in youth and peacebuilding, addresses existing assumptions and theories of change regarding youth and peacebuilding, and overviews key issues and highlights a variety of promising practices in different sectors and thematic areas. The Practice Note primarily explores promising practices in the field that have undergone some level of evaluation or review, although limitations in evidence were encountered.

Publication available here

Assessing the Impact of Orthodox Security Sector Reform in Sierra Leone

Ibrahim Bangura, September 2016

The launch of a security sector reform (SSR) process in 1997 was a key element of a broader push for sustainable peace and security in Sierra Leone, a country with a chequered history characterized by bad governance, corruption and a violent civil war since 1991. The country presented a peculiar case for SSR as its military had joined forces in 1997 with the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) against the democratically elected government of Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.

Given the political context within the country and the perceived threat posed by conventional state security actors, a state-centric approach to SSR was endorsed with the principal goal of reorienting the security apparatus and stabilizing the country. Given that key SSR stakeholders had yet to fully appreciate the concept’s holistic orientation and governance focus at the time of its launch, the SSR process initially had a fairly narrow focus that missed opportunities to engage influential actors like non-state security and justice providers.

Between 1997 and 2002, with no clear policy or strategy in place, SSR took an ad-hoc approach dictated by fluid events and perceptions on the ground. The process was more reactive than constructive during this foundational period. However, with the declaration of the end of the conflict in 2002, a more structured and selective approach was employed, which saw several Ministries, Departments and Agencies benefit from reforms. Despite such encouraging signs, SSR has faced immense challenges since its inception, including limited political will, mistrust of political elites, poor coordination among local and international actors, and inadequate investment by the government of Sierra Leone. The process has remained heavily donor driven, with the British government being by far the greatest contributor to the process. It is worth noting that while this paper is focused on the record of conventional approaches to SSR in Sierra Leone, it does shine a spotlight on some early efforts to develop innovative second generation SSR initiatives.

Full report available here

We Can’t Eat Peace: Youth, Sustainable Livelihoods and the Peacebuilding Process in Sierra Leone

Ibrahim Bangura, August 2016

This article examines the legacy and ongoing threat of historical neglect and marginalisation of youth in Sierra Leone, and the implications for the peacebuilding process in the country. This threat, embedded in the current socio-economic status quo, has bred energetic but disillusioned, violence-tested and frustrated youth willing to resort to any means for survival. Such societal vulnerabilities, stemming in part from young people’s willingness to engage in violence, continue to test the resilience of the peacebuilding process. Underpinning this article are extensive interviews and focus group discussions conducted with youth and other relevant stakeholders across the country on issues related to youth and the peacebuilding process in Sierra Leone. Findings from this study provide new perspectives on the challenges faced by youth, the government’s inability to meet their needs, and the implications for the country’s peacebuilding process.

Article available here

Concept Note on Community Based (Re)integration and Security (CBRS)

Irma Specht, et al., January 2015

The new approach of Community Based (Re)integration and Security (CBRS) presents an innovative approach for more comprehensive context and community driven reintegration, integration, resilience and community security programming. It responds to the different dynamics of (re)integration and resilience processes, target groups (e.g. ex-combatants, returnees, refugees, Internally Displaced Persons, Children Associated with Armed Forces and Groups and other children and youth at risk), and receiving- and host communities.

Several targeted (re)integration, self-reliance, and local integration projects usually occur in parallel, tend to create further divisions in the communities, and are often not sustainable. Most programmes are highly centralised and thereby do not adequately respond to local contexts nor empower local actors to plan, execute, and own the processes. In addition, localised conflicts often continue to exist within and between communities. It is likely that ex-combatants and other youth could be drawn into these local conflicts on account of their Conflict Carrying Capacities, the widespread availability of weapons, and due to a lack of existing opportunities in the legal economy. Their involvement in these local conflicts could subsequently lead to continuing cycles of conflict. Meanwhile, community members often express the urgent need to control small arms in the localities. Communities furthermore want to move away from conflict and violence and have their development needs addressed.

This new approach proposes different means to build bridges between the different reintegration, community security, and resilience approaches in order to foster durable solutions, stability, local economic development, and (re)integration of the different groups in their host- or receiving communities.

PDF available here

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
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Gender, Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration and Violent Masculinities.

Irma Specht, October 2013

This chapter explores how gender roles change during and after conflict, with particular attention to the importance of masculine and feminine identities and how these can change in conflict contexts, as well as the influence of DDR on changing or cementing these identities. This exploration of changing gender roles in conflict and post-conflict settings is crucial for helping us to understand the prevalence of Gender Based Violence (GBV) in much conflict but also post-conflict societies. This chapter is analysing the following ideas, namely that: (1) the level of engagement of women in conflict is linked to pre-war gender roles; (2) that in some circumstances conflict can actually create opportunities for women’s empowerment but that this creates additional challenges in gender dynamics; and (3) that the identity loss experienced by demobilized men is a crucial factor in explaining the prevalence of GBV after Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration programmes. Whilst it is inevitably difficult to make conclusions about global trends, this chapter uses a range of pertinent case study examples, from Liberia to Afghanistan, to analyse and illustrate these concepts.

PDF available here

Work not War: Youth transformation in Liberia and Sierra Leone

Elizabeth Drew and Dr. Alexander Ramsbotham, March 2012

Liberian and Sierra Leonean youths have faced alienation and economic hardship. This has led some into violence. Peacebuilding initiatives have sought to educate, employ and empower youths. But political reforms so far have not met the scale of the challenge and excluded young people are still involved in political violence, criminal gangs and mercenary activity: the cycle has not been broken.

This article discusses young people’s experiences and perspectives before, during and after the wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone. It is based on semi-structured interviews conducted by the authors with 30 young people between the ages of 18 and 35 from both countries: 17 men and 13 women; ex-combatants and non-combatants; from rural and urban communities. Interviews were conducted in June and July 2011. Interviewees were selected based on their age and personal experiences of youth issues and the challenges faced by young people in their countries. The article also draws on past interviews and research conducted by the authors and others from 2004 to 2011.

Full article available here

DDR, Transitional Justice, and the Reintegration of Former Child Combatants

Roger Duthie and Irma Specht, January 2010

Little has been written about how transitional justice measures affect the goals of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) programs with respect to former child combatants and how, in turn, DDR programmes affect the goals of transitional justice measures with respect to children. This chapter takes a step toward filling this gap. The main argument is that the primary avenue through which transitional justice measures may positively affect the reintegration of former child combatants is likely to be their potential impact on receiving communities—that is, minimizing social exclusion through the reduction of community members’ and victims’ feelings of injustice. Potential negative effects, however, are important and should not be overlooked.

ICTJ Research Brief available here

Socio-Economic Reintegration of Ex-Combatants

Irma Specht, 2010. Practice note 4: Socio-Economic Reintegration of Ex-Combatants. International Alert

Introduction to series
This practice note explains why the socio-economic reintegration of former combatants is important and relevant for economic development planners and practitioners. It will assist you in your efforts to mobilise economic actors to play a constructive role in reintegration processes. The socio- economic reintegration of former combatants is important and relevant for economic development planners and practitioners as successful reintegration will increase security and stability; necessary pre-conditions for economic development, business expansion and the reduction of costs and risks of doing business. Simultaneously, economic recovery and business expansion are essential preconditions for successful socio- economic reintegration, as most ex-combatants will need to find employment in the private sector.

Who should read this series?

Policy-makers and practitioners, specifically those that are working in conflict-prone and conflict-affected contexts.

The series will help you to:

  • Better understand key economic recovery challenges and opportunities in conflict and post-conflict contexts;
  • Draw on existing good practice for your own economic development planning and programming in this area;
  • Maximise the positive contribution your strategy and programme can make to economic recovery and peacebuilding; and
  • Ensure that your intervention is conflict-sensitive.

PDF available here

Children and DDR

Irma Specht, 2009. “Children and DDR”, in D. Nosworthy (ed.), 2009. Seen but not Heard; Placing Children and Youth on the Security Governance Agenda.

This chapter explores the experiences and impact of past and ongoing DDR programmes for children, in the framework of formal DDR programmes associated with peace agreements and post-conflict SSR initiatives. It also examines opportunities for strengthening such initiatives, in particular recommending approaches that acknowledge local realities, and promote local ownership and sustainability. It will suggest ways to improve the continuum between DDR and SSR on the one hand, and DDR and development on the other.

Chapter available here

Socio-Economic Profiling and Opportunity Mapping Manual

Irma Specht, 2008

The challenges posed to DDR programmes are complex, particularly because each DDR programme is implemented in a different context, and requires responses that are sometimes so different from context to context as to have little in common with previous programmes. Recognising this stresses the need to invest more time, energy and resources in assessments conducted, as outlined in this document. The Integrated DDR standards (IDDRS) advise to undertake 4 core assessments before designing a reintegration programme, namely:

  • Conflict and security analysis
  • Pre-registration beneficiary survey
  • Identification and assessment of areas of return or resettlement
  • Reintegration opportunities and services mapping

This manual is designed to guide the reintegration opportunities and services mapping and also provides, to a limited extent, some guidance on profiling of the combatants, which is part of the pre-registration beneficiary survey. In order to acquire the solid knowledge base needed to design an effective reintegration programme, all 4 assessments should be completed, and complemented with other specific assessments such as a solid gender analysis and more specialised studies on needs of special groups such as children and people with disabilities. While this manual is designed to guide reintegration processes of adult and child combatants, the data collected is also of great importance to organisations mandated to reintegrate refugees, returnees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), youth, etc. Therefore, joint assessments with partners that require the same information are very much encouraged.

This manual has been prepared upon the initial request of UNICEF Liberia, UNDP HAITI, UNDDR Sudan and the United Nations Department of Peace-Keeping Operations (DPKO) in New York. The Norwegian Defence International Centre (NODEFIC) in Oslo provided additional funding to Transition International to finalise and publish this manual. The tool was tested in Liberia, Haiti and Sudan and has been adapted based upon these experiences. The tool is also used in the NODEFIC DDR planning course.

PDF available here

Conflict Analysis: Practical tool to analyse conflict in order to prioritise and strategise Conflict Transformation Programmes

Irma Specht, 2008

It is the purpose of the present tool to fill the gap and help the staff of ICCO & Kerk in Actie, its partners and consultants to do in-depth conflict analyses. The result will be a detailed description of the attitudes, the behaviour, the perceptions, the context and the underlying structures of the conflicts. Answering and discussing all 13 questions of this manual will provide the basis for strategy development, guiding CT actions and priorities. It must be stressed that conflict analysis is important, but it is only the first step in developing an effective CT programme. It is not within the scope of this tool to provide detailed guidance on all steps, but Chapter 5 of this manual provides some indications on how to move from the analysis to developing a vision of the future, and a CT programme. Because this tool will be used around the world, in many different cultures, conflicts and different stages of conflict, no detailed guidance can be provided on the exact process of undertaking the analysis and developing a CT programme.

PDF available here

The reintegration of teenage girls and young women

Larry Attree and Irma Specht in Intervention, International journal of Mental Health, Psychosocial Work and Counseling in Areas of Armed Conflict, November 2006

Women combatants are not a homogeneous group. The current approach of many Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programmes is inappropriate for girls between 14 and 25 years of age. In order to provide reintegration assistance that has a significant long-term impact, it is essential first to understand why girls the join armed forces. Before DDR programme plans are finalized and programmes started, time and resources need to be invested firstly to locate the girls and then begin the process of understanding their potentials, vulnerabilities, dreams and ambitions.

Article available here

Kindsoldaten in Uganda

“In veel Afrikaanse landen worden kinderen gekidnapt door legers en rebellengroeperingen. De kinderen worden ingezet als soldaat of als seksslaaf. Uganda spant in deze praktijken de kroon” dit zegt Irma Specht van Transition International (TI). TI werkt als organisatie voor de Verenigde Naties en is gespecialiseerd in veranderingsprocessen in getraumatiseerde gebieden. Irma Specht heeft jarenlang in Afrika gewoond waar zij kindsoldaten begeleidde naar een zo normaal mogelijk bestaan in de samenleving.
“In gebieden waar langlopende conflicten zijn, worden volwassen mannen een schaars goed. Je ziet dat er dan vaak steeds jongere jongens worden aangetrokken. Maar sommige warlords zeggen liever met kinderen te vechten, omdat kindsoldaten makkelijk te intimideren zijn en geen vragen stellen. In Uganda worden ook op grote schaal meisjes ontvoerd. Zij worden zogenaamde bush-women; vaste sekslaven van het leger. Meestal worden ze aan een persoon gekoppeld. Dat is namelijk de manier om mannen voor dit soort groeperingen te ronselen. Er wordt hun een jonge sekslaaf in het vooruitzicht gesteld.”

“Wat vaak gebeurt, is dat een rebellengroepering een dorp binnenvalt en daar alle ouderen gevangen neemt. De kinderen worden dan voor de keuze gesteld: of ze schieten zelf een van hun ouders neer, of ze krijgen de kogel. Nadat de kinderen een aantal leeftijdgenoten die weigeren zien sneuvelen, kiezen ze er vaak toch voor een van de ouders dood te schieten. Vanaf dat moment horen ze bij de rebellen en hebben ze niet het gevoel dat ze nog terug kunnen naar hun eigen gezin. Organisaties als Transition International vangen kinderen met zo’n verleden op om ze klaar te maken voor een leven in de samenleving. Je kunt ze niet laten vergeten wat ze hebben meegemaakt. Maar je kunt ze wel handvatten bieden om met dit verleden te leven.”

“Het is belangrijk te realiseren dat kinderen in Afrika vanaf een jaar of 13 financieel in hun eigen levensonderhoud moeten voorzien. Ze kunnen wel bij hun ouders blijven wonen, maar die hebben amper voldoende middelen voor de jongere kinderen in het gezin. Je kunt ze dus wel naar school sturen, maar dan moet je er ook voor zorgen dat ze na school een praktische opleiding volgen waarmee ze aan het werk kunnen. Als ze eenmaal werk hebben, dan groeit hun eigenwaarde, waardoor het makkelijker is om het eigen verleden een plek te geven.”

Lees het volledige artikel hier

Les jeunes dans les processus de DDR

Irma Specht  in  DDR désarmer, démobiliser et réintégrer. Défis humains – Enjeux globaux

Book available here

Juventud y reinserción

Irma Specht, Working paper on Youth and Reintegration, Fundación Ideas para la paz, August 2006

El tema de este número son los jóvenes y la reinserción. Human Rights Watch estimó en el 2005 que en Colombia uno de cada cuatro combatientes irregulares, alrededor de 11.000, era menor de 18 años y que el 80% de ellos se había unido a las FARC y el ELN. Algunos han sido llevados a la fuerza, otros han ingresado atraídos por las armas y el poder, y para otros la guerra ha sido un método de escape. En nuestro medio, la violencia intrafamiliar y tener contactos con “pares problemáticos” son unos de los factores más importantes que empujan a los jóvenes a hacer parte tanto de grupos delincuenciales como de grupos armados ilegales.

PDF (in Spanish) available here

Article on girl combatants in Liberia in the Guardian: ‘I wanted to take revenge’

Diane Taylor, July 2006

An AK47 and a pair of red stilettos may, on the face of it, seem to have nothing in common. Surprisingly though, both are said to have played a significant role in recruiting young girl soldiers to fight in Liberia’s civil war.

The usual view of girl soldiers – who make up between 10% and 30% of some child armies – is that they are unwilling participants in conflicts, dragged kicking and screaming into government or rebel soldier battalions. Yet according to the report Red Shoes: Experiences of Girl Combatants in Liberia, which details research by anthropologist Irma Specht, girls’ motivation for fighting is often much more complex than previously thought. Specht’s report, written for the UN, adds to her previous studies of child soldiers in countries including Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone and Colombia, and documents the growing number of girls who are choosing to fight.

Read full article here.

Red Shoes: Experiences of girl-combatants in Liberia

Irma Specht, June 2006

Liberia is on the difficult path of recovery after 14 years of conflict. The conflict in Liberia has created havoc, misery and trauma. But people are filled with hope, busy reconstructing a peaceful society. Successful demobilization of combatants from various fighting factions, including those of Government, is key to create, but even more, to sustain peace.

Thousands of youth take up arms during violent conflict, in many cases a key motive is the lack of job opportunities. Lessons from the past teach us that the process of disarmament and demobilization can only be successful if strong reintegration support follows immediately after the first 2 steps are completed.

Although women generally comprise between 10 and 30 percent of armed forces and groups, surprisingly little research has been done to on the lives of girl combatants in armed conflict. How does it affect their personalities? How do gender relations affect their choices? How do they cope after the conflict is ended? Are they able to use their experience to increase gender equality? Or do they go back to their earlier status of inequality? Do they have different needs then men? And if so, how well do DDR processes and programmes address these?

The ILO’s Crisis Recovery and Reconstruction Programme recognizes gender equality as a central element in equitable, effective reconstruction and development, and for “universal and lasting peace”, a major precept of ILO’s Constitution. It has a special work item on crisis and gender, aiming at creating a “new environment” with less structural imbalances between men and women, primarily in the world of work, but also in other spheres.

The present study on the experiences of female ex-combatants in Liberia was coordinated by Irma Specht, a former ILO Official and experienced consultant on matters related to DDR, through her consultancy firm Transition International. The study aims to gain insights in the motives of Liberian girls for taking up arms and their reintegration needs. It also aims to highlight the key issues for improving gender sensitive prevention and reintegration policies.

The study was facilitated and financed as a joint initiative by UNDP, UNICEF and the ILO.
Alfredo Lazarte
Director a.i.
Crisis Response and Reconstruction Programme
ILO, 2006

Full report available from here

Evaluation of Gender Mainstreaming Work and impact of United Nations Assistance Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL)

Eugenia Date-Bah. UNAMSIL, Gender Unit of  DPKO, May 2006.

This report responds to a request, by the gender adviser of DPKO Headquarters, for an evaluation of UNAMSIL’s gender mainstreaming work and impact. It is based on qualitative and quantitative data and insights, generated (October and November 2005) from face-to-face interviews of a sample of UNAMSIL staff, local stakeholders as well as representatives of other UN bodies, in addition to desk research.

PDF available here

ILO-IPEC and UNICEF: Labour market and skills training assessment

ILO, 2005. Mapping of reintegration opportunities for children associated with fighting forces. A report covering Liberia. Geneva.

Girl-combatants: Women warriors fight their way back into Liberian society

Irma Specht, August 2005. Monrovia, Liberia – “The men are not treating the women right in war!”

So says Ellen, a 24-year-old Liberian woman who led more than 1,000 female fighters in her country’s savage, seven-year civil war. Her sentiments go a long way to explain why Liberian girls and women on both sides of the conflict decided to go into battle.

“When I met girls from the other groups, I put down my gun and walk to them and explain to them my reason of taking up arms,” Ellen says in broken but spirited English. “Why we women should stand and fight against one another? We put hands together to fight men.”

Ellen and her army were part of an insurgent group called Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). They fought against the forces of warlord Charles Taylor.

Although women make up between 10 and 30 per cent of armed forces worldwide, little is known about their motives for enlisting. But a recent ILO research project in Liberia, the first of a series of ILO studies in different war-affected countries, is discovering why females choose to become combatants. In Liberia, the research involved first-hand interviews with “girls” up to age 35 who had been actively engaged in fighting.

For many, the number one reason they fought was to protect themselves and other women from rape and murder. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International believe that rape is widely used as a weapon of war, to dehumanize women and the communities they belong to. The ILO wants to raise national and international public awareness of the extreme use of sexual violence in warfare and its consequences.

Although the war in Liberia has ended, the exploitation and abuse of girls and women have not. Female ex-combatants face many obstacles in their efforts to return to normal life, an indication that many men do not treat women fairly in times of peace either. While reintegration of ex-soldiers into society is critical to peace building and reconstruction, previously existing programmes tended to reintegrate girls back into the harmful situations they came from, thereby ignoring the underlying issues that drove them to fight in the first place.

Recently, others have agreed to disarm, but their future remains clouded in questions. Will they receive the assistance needed to return to society as functioning civilians, mothers, and wives? Will they be accepted and treated with respect? Will they be able to navigate through training courses and education to jobs that allow them to earn a decent living? And, how will those who are too scared to come out and register as ex-combatants be treated? So far, reintegration assistance has been seriously delayed, and the absorption capacity of the war-torn labour market is not promising.

The result of all this uncertainty is that girls and women refuse to show up at disarmament, demobilization and recruitment (DDR) cantonment sites. Afraid to confront men at these places, they dread dealing with disturbing memories of life in army camps, memories they would rather forget. Many hesitate to register as ex-combatants because that would entail having their pictures taken for identification cards. Their fear of being labelled a female fighter and the social exclusion that could bring is likely grounded in reality. Communities, schools, employers and even families often reject women after they have broken traditional female roles because they are wary of future problems. As a result, many girls and women will not receive any DDR financial assistance.

Yet these women are not remaining silent. The fact that they have the courage to speak out and tell their stories will empower them. Their experiences can help agencies like the ILO develop gender-sensitive policies and programmes that have a good chance of meeting their reintegration needs. To that end, the ILO/IFPCRISIS has funded research and documentation of the individual stories of the Liberian female soldiers. Once published, this document will be used for more effective programme assistance. It will also complement the recent ILO-funded book Young Soldiers: Why They Fight by Rachel Brett and Irma Specht, which identifies underlying issues that drive young people to join armed forces and recommends possible solutions.

Male or female, one thing an ex-combatant needs is a decent job. The ILO, with its International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC)  and in collaboration with UNICEF, has recently finished an assessment of the Liberian labour market and training needs as a basis for programmes to reintegrate female and male soldiers. With accelerated learning programmes, vocational training, small and medium enterprise development projects, apprenticeships and business start-ups, it is hoped that these young ex-soldiers will receive a second chance to build a better future. Beside its technical inputs in the fields, the ILO adds other essential elements to reintegration programmes such as social justice, social inclusion, protection, sustainability and a strong gender focus. Only by understanding people’s motives, needs and concerns can agencies effectively develop plans to overcome such challenges.

Many of Ellen’s “girls” have babies now. However, that doesn’t stop them from wanting education and training that leads to gainful employment. In fact, these women are even more determined to secure safe and decent work because they now have to provide for themselves, each other, and their children.

Available from here

Youth in War to Peace Transitions. Approaches of International Organizations

Kemper, Yvonne. Berghof Research Center for Constructive Conflict Management, 2005

This study deals with youth in war-to-peace transitions and the response of international organizations to them. While youth’s relevance for societal transformation is a long-acknowledged fact, their large numbers and potential roles in conflict have recently caused organizations to consider them a target group for peace and development programs. Reflecting on this process, this study thus assesses the difficulties in conceptualizing the role of youth in peace-building processes on the one hand and the concrete efforts of international organizations to integrate them into their policies and programs on the other. For this purpose, it explores four guiding questions: First, what approaches have international organizations developed regarding youth? Second, on which assumptions about youth and their role in violent conflicts are they based? Third, how do the different approaches affect program development, and, fourth, are they are compatible?

PDF available here

Young Soldiers: Why They Choose To Fight

Rachel Brett and Irma Specht, 2004. Young Soldiers: Why they choose to fight. Geneva: International Labour Organization

They are part of rebel factions, national armies, paramilitaries, and other armed groups and entrenched in some of the most violent conflicts around the globe. They are in some ways still children? Yet, from Afghanistan to Sierra Leone to Northern Ireland, you can find them among the fighters. Why?

Young Soldiers is a book that provides the reader with a powerful opportunity to learn from the ‘inside out.’ It is an opportunity that should not be missed.” – Shyrl Topp Matias, International Journal on World Peace.

Young Soldiers explores the reasons that adolescents who are neither physically forced nor abducted choose to join armed groups. Drawing on in-depth interviews with the soldiers themselves, the authors challenge conventional wisdom to offer a thought-provoking account of the role that war, poverty, education, politics, identity, family, and friends all play in driving these young men and women to join military life. They also address the important issues of demobilization and the reintegration process.

I want to advise people who want to be rebel fighters, young soldiers, that they should learn from what we have gone through, which is too sad an experience. Those children younger than we are should never again be involved in such a life anymore. What I have seen and undergone is not for a child to experience.” – Arthur, Sierra Leone.

International in scope, covering a variety of situations in Afghanistan, Colombia, Congo-Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and the United Kingdom, Young Soldiers concludes with a discussion of the steps needed to create an environment in which adolescents are no longer “forced” to volunteer.

Book available here

Developing Human Resources in the Field of Reintegration of Former Combatants

Irma Specht, BICC Brief (Oct. 2004), p. 111-112.

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